OK, so I’ll probably not make too many friends by beating down on the frozen vegetarian options that are available in the frozen section these days, but I’ll confess, as I started to see the various vegetarian options increasing in availability, I did get very excited. I was blinded by the vegan label and was excited about the convenience of a ready made meal – but let’s be serious, this is no different than buying any other highly processed item you would usually find in the freezer section.
Let’s start with the basic Boca burger – I’m not a fan of this burger – I’ve made a decision to be vegetarian and don’t really enjoy eating items that are made to taste or look like they aren’t. However, because it is vegan, it is awesome to have as an option when you go out to eat.
WATER, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, WHEAT GLUTEN, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF METHYLCELLULOSE, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR, DRIED ONIONS, YEAST EXTRACT, SESAME OIL, HYDROLYZED WHEAT PROTEIN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR (NON-MEAT), DISODIUM GUANYLATE, DISODIUM INOSINATE.
First problem with Boca’s use of soy is that it is rarely organic – they have a couple of options that are non-GMO soy, but in my opinion, if you are consuming soy, it should definitely be organic. Silk soymilk is a great example of a product that used to be organic, but at some point, they switched their main line to be non-organic and then started charging higher prices for the organic version.
Did you know that methylcellulose is used as a construction material? In this case, it is being used as an emulsifier. One of the more scarier ingredients is Disodium Guanylate – this ingredient should not be given to babies under the age of 12 weeks and those with gout. Also, it is usually derived from fish, so make sure your product explicitly states that it is vegan.
All that being said, I’m sure folks could argue in either direction on whether these ingredients are actually harmful or not. But does that ingredient list really appeal to you? When you read it, do you get excited about what you’re about to eat? I personally feel a bit grossed out by it.
I used to buy a lot of the soy crumbles products as well, but nowadays, if I really need that texture for a chili or stew, I opt to crumble my own organic extra firm tofu and cook it with some vegan Worcestershire sauce. I leave it on low heat in a non stick pan until all the water dries out and achieves a chewy texture.
Morningstar Farms has come out with quite a few veggie burger options, and a few vegan varieties as well, but these burgers are so high in sodium – averaging around 400mg per burger seems pretty high for something that barely has 100 calories. Most processed foods tend to be high in sugar and salt to make the food taste good enough – there isn’t much else you can do when you’re only working with 100 calories. A great book to read on this topic is The End of Overeating by David Kessler, the former FDA commissioner.
I’ve been trying out various veggie burger recipes, trying to perfect my own burger. Creating a veggie burger at home is so simple to do, and I like that it gives me an opportunity to use up vegetables or leftovers in my refrigerator. Some great ingredient ideas include shredded carrots, potatoes (even more convenient when they are leftover), leftover grains (brown rice, pasta), canned beans, tofu, walnuts, cashews…the list could go on. My favourite ingredient to absorb any excess liquid is oats and I have found that the best thing to use to mash together all the ingredients is your hands (if you have issues with that, use a potato masher).
Wow, apparently, I had a lot to say on this topic…I’m not against the convenience of a packaged burger for summer picnics or large events. But for everyday meals, get creative and use fresh ingredients instead of heading down the freezer aisle.